Local Food Conference To Be Held In May

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The second annual Real Food, Real Local Institute conference will be held this month to share best practices of the “locavore” food economy movement with those from other parts of the U.S., as well as locals.

The three-day conference focused on the local food economy will be held at the Eclipse Company Store in The Plains May 15-17.

According to organizer Natalie Woodroofe, people from nine states are registered for the conference so far. Last year’s event — held in July — attracted about 65 people. Woodroofe said she’s expecting anywhere from 75 to 100 participants this year.

With the region’s booming Athens Farmers Market, ever-growing Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) Food Ventures Center and local food producers and farmers, Athens County has become a model for local food economies across the nation. The Real Food, Real Local Institute was created to share the region’s successes with other communities.

A series of pre-conference intensive workshops will be held on May 14 from 1-5 p.m. ranging from learning about year-round growing at Green Edge Gardens in Amesville to local meats at Rural Action and the ACEnet Food Ventures Center on Columbus Road. Each intensive workshop is $30 to participate.

The conference will officially kick off on May 15 with several discussions on topics ranging from bringing rural produce to urban markets, elected officials supporting local food economies, feeding the hungry and more. There will also be a tour of the Athens Farmers Market and uptown locally-sourced restaurants such as Fluff Bakery, Sol Restaurant, and the Not Guilty Food Cart.

An after-hours event will be held at Casa Nueva — Athens’ most popular locally-sourced restaurant on May 15.

The second day of the conference will allow participants to view portions of the “Hand to Mouth” documentary showcasing the region’s food economy. There will also be discussions about artisanal cheese production, funding the local foods movement, women’s journeys in food entrepreneurship and more.

There will be an optional tour of the Chesterhill Produce Auction and the Amish farms that produce the goods sold there.

Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery will host an after-hours event on May 16.

The final day will teach participants how to utilize maps and mobile applications to market local food movements. Topics such as the young locavore movement and how to form a food hub cooperative will be discussed. Friday’s optional tour will visit Dancing Tree Distillery, Shade Winery and Jackie O’s new tap room on Stimson Avenue.

The tours are optional and not included in the conference registration fee. The first tour is $30 and the other two are $25 each. All tours will leave from the Eclipse Company Store on Jackson Drive in The Plains (just off Johnson Road).

Woodroofe said the decision was made to move the conference from July to May this year because of the change in Ohio University’s academic schedule. Since students are already gone for the summer, Woodroofe said the conference will attract visitors and book hotel rooms during this slow time of year for area businesses.

While the conference will share the success secrets of Athens County’s locavore movement, Woodroofe said she encourages locals to attend the conference as well.

“When you’re so close, sometimes you don’t see things the same way,” she said, adding that the conference wants to let Athenians know of all the wonderful growth happening in the local food movement.

Used with permission of the Athens Messenger